Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates, will not be charged in connection with the alleged sexual assault of an FSU student.
State Attorney Willie Meggs made the announcement today in Tallahassee, Fla., saying there wasn’t enough evidence to secure an indictment. Winston was accused of assaulting the woman at an off-campus apartment Dec. 7, 2012, and Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, said the sexual encounter was consensual.
Meggs offered assurances that the decision was made with no regard to “Heisman demands or [the] football schedule” of the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, which plays Duke for the ACC title this weekend. His office will, he said, release the report of the investigation within the next 24 hours.
Among the issues with the investigation, Meggs said, was the presence of DNA from two men — one of whom was Winston — in the victim. She reported the assault to campus police, who referred it to Tallahassee police because the assault occurred off-campus. The woman’s attorney had criticized their handling of the case because Winston is a star player. Meggs was asked if the investigation was completed with an eye toward the Dec. 9 date by which voting for the Heisman must be completed.
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“When are they doing that?” Meggs said to laughter in a press conference that contained more of it than one might expect under the circumstances. “Whenever they were doing it, there was nor pressure. … Nor did I consult with the football schedule or who the starting quarterback might be.”
The accuser, whom Meggs said had no relationship with Winston before or after the alleged attack, initially reported the alleged rape to FSU police on the night of the incident. Since the incident took place away from campus, FSU police immediately referred the case to Tallahassee police. The woman’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, has been critical of the way Tallahassee police handled the case from the beginning. In a statement released two weeks ago, Carroll stated that a Tallahassee officer told her that the city is is a “big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against [Winston] because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”
Tallahassee police had turned the case over to Meggs on Nov. 12 after a number of media inquiries.
A search warrant affidavit, obtained by Fox sports, showed that the alleged victim told police she and friends had had five to six shots of alcohol and that her “memory is very broken from that point forward.” She said she remembered being in a cab with a “non-descript” black man and going into an apartment where she was raped. The woman didn’t identify Winston, who is black, until early January. She tried to fight off the man, according to the warrant, and another man came into the room and told him to stop. However, the two went into a bathroom and “he completed the act.” She recalled that the alleged attacked dressed her, put her on a scooter and dropped her off on a campus street. She said she did not know where the alleged assault occurred and, according to lawyer, is no longer a student at the university.
“The victim and her family appreciate the State Attorney’s efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department,” Carroll said in a statement. “The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice.The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting.”
Jansen said Winston was “very happy” with the decision. “I can say he gave me a hug. It was not relief because he knew he didn’t do anything.”
Meggs, in an interview later with ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, said he simply did not feel he could proceed with the case.
“We did not feel like we had enough evidence to move forward,” Meggs said. “We did not feel like we had enough to file a charge. [People will] have to draw their own conclusions about his character [from the investigative material released today]. … [F]olks can make their own call about him and this case.”
Some of them, it appeared, already have:
Outside the courthouse. pic.twitter.com/jR0Rerslcl
— Patrik Nohe/M_Herald (@PatrikNohe_MH) December 5, 2013